Unless I’m spruiking a new book, this blog sails along in parallel to my writing, sometimes close but never together.
So it feels like time to give an update on what’s been happening with my writing, and what’s coming up.
The Immediate Past
I started this year aiming to finish two manuscripts: my third poetry collection and my second novel. I’ve met one of those two goals: my third poetry collection, the one I’m calling “Men Briefly Explained”, has now been completed and sent out to its first port of call (I hope it’s the final port of call, but it is never wise to get one’s hopes up too far in such matters.)
The novel isn’t quite so far along: I have put it through several revisions, and I have some more revision tasks to do before sending out to those who have kindly agreed to be first readers for me – of which more later.
A lot of what normally qualifies as my writing time in the second half of last year was taken up with doing promotional work for Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, the anthology co-edited by Mark Pirie and myself. The work – notably the book tour organised by Voyagers’ publisher Interactive Press – paid off: Voyagers has sold well for an anthology of its type, and it made the Listener “100 Best Books of the Year” list for 2009.
This year, my writing time has indeed been taken up with writing – OK, when I haven’t been distracting myself with Twitter – but I did have a very enjoyable change of scene with two visits to Newlands College over the past couple of weeks. The first was to present the prizes in a Poetry Day poetry competition I’d judged, and the second, with the financial assistance of Creative New Zealand, was a full-day Writers In Schools Programme visit arranged through the New Zealand Book Council.
I’ve been on the books of the Writers in Schools programme for a while, and had even done some school visits outside that programme, but this was my first “official” school visit. I spent the whole day at the school, running mini-workshops and giving talks. And, despite a nagging cold which necessitated the frequent intake of Strepsils, I had a really good time. The teachers were friendly, the students were interested, and if given the chance, I’d love to do it all over again.
The Foreseeable Future
My main writing focus for the rest of the year will be to get the novel manuscript to the point where I can send it to those kind souls who have volunteered as first readers – at least one of whom has been waiting for an unconscionably long time now! Right now, I’m on the last few chapters of the third full revision. After that, I need to:
- take all those pesky square brackets which say things like [check this] and [add para here] and replace them with things that a reader might want to read. (Or maybe I should just leave these square brackets in and “crowdsource” the answers? What would Jane Austen do?)
- do a “dialogue run”, in which I’ll go through each character’s dialogue in turn and say it out loud to check that it sounds like them and not like me.
- and read the whole thing through once more for luck.
Also, maybe I should finally give the novel a title. I’m given to understand this can be terribly effective.
Once that’s done and out to the readers, I’ll be able to turn my attention to the short story ideas that have been bouncing around in my head for a while now, waiting for their turn. I haven’t written many short stories since Transported was published, and it’s high time I did.
There’s also Au Contraire to look forward to at the end of next week, with its full hand of literary events including the launch of short story anthology A Foreign Country; the October launch of New Zealand cricket poetry anthology ‘A Tingling Catch’; and a poetry reading I’ll say more about soon. It should be a good few months.